Dairy support block manager Heather Clucas currently manages a 130ha support block near Hinds, in Mid Canterbury. A position she enjoys because of the variety of work the block brings. Heather says some days it's full on with moving irrigators (3 soft hose traveling guns and a few sprinklers and K-lines plus a pivot) and other days it’s being a tractor jockey and working the paddock ready for next rotation. However, stock work is always the highlight of her day. The property currently runs a mix of 220 rising one and two-year-old cattle that she says keeps her out of trouble with always something to do.
The winter is one of her busiest times of the year with morning break fences needing moved and feeders needing fresh feed daily. Last year they wintered around 350 cows from the dairy farm. “With the boss’s dairy farm (800 cows) just a short 2km walk up the road it does make moving stock an easy exercise”.
After completing school at Ashburton College, Heather decided to take a gap year where she split her time working between a sheep and beef property near Cave and then a 1000 cow dairy farm near Lismore. It was then off the Lincoln University to complete two years of study and graduated with a Diploma of Agriculture and Diploma in Farm Management. Summer holidays over this period took her south for a change of scenery, to Balclutha milking cows.
The opportunity then arose to take on a full time dairy job near Westerfield, milking 500 cows. Heather admits she learnt lots but soon started to get itchy feet and decided the time to adventure off and travel some of the world had come. So in April 2009 following her official graduation she headed off on her OE, which started with a short stopover in Thailand, followed by Topdeck Travel adventures in Europe. Over this time, she says she made lifelong friends and memories. Returning to England and through contacts of her older brother she managed to get her first stable hand job. Heather loved working with the horses and said it was hard work but great fun! She stayed in England for nearly 2 years and worked at 3 different stables and a bakery before deciding to return home to NZ in February 2011.
However, she wasn’t to be kept at home for long and relief milked helped to keep her busy before her visa for Canada was approved and in July 2011 she headed away saying “I’ll be home for Christmas”. The Calgary Stampede was an awesome way to start the trip then it was time for some work. A beef and cropping farm near Strathmore, Alberta was to be her home for the next 13 months before she received an email in August 2012 from a previous boss in NZ offering a full time opportunity back home – “the timing was right, and the opportunity was too good to turn down - home again I came”. Heather worked for two years on this farm milking 950 cows and undertaking the various day to day jobs.
By now Heather had caught the travel bug and headed back to Canada and the USA between returning home a few times to do some more casual milking to pay the way before heading Western Australia seeding in April 2015. “Driving the big gear was pretty awesome! I was the night shift girl.” Come the beginning of June they had finished all the planting – so she headed north to the beautiful Kimberley’s to work on a 350,000 ha cattle station. Here she was situated on the Fitzroy River 3.5 hours from Broome. Heather recalls long hot days of dusty work was a big adventure with great workmates and horses.
Come September 2015 it was back into a casual milking job at Westerfield. This job then progressed into 2IC on a 1050 cow farm for 2016/2017 season. “I thoroughly enjoyed the day to day working with the cows. Managing staff provided a good challenge for me.” And now she enjoys not having to get up at 3.30am every day and having more variety in her work in her current position as a dairy support manager.
In her spare time Heather is involved in the community being the president of the local Netball Club and also playing, and attending Young farmer events and social activities. Her other passion is horses and enjoys winding down after a good day of work riding around on her horse Ice.
“I feel very privileged and proud to do what I do in the rural sector and I'm excited about Ag Women and our involvement in the future.”
You have defiantly seen some great parts of the world Heather and we are glad you have chosen to follow your agriculture dreams. We wish you all the best for your future adventures and maybe you can share some of your bakery skills with us all one day.